(FinalCall.com) – When Barack Obama ran for president four years ago, he was the candidate of change that people could believe in. He was a man who called for an end to pointless partisan bickering and a newfound spirit of American unity and commitment to the country.
Times and politics have changed. Since the president has been in office, he has shown a propensity to kowtow to intransigent Republicans and has done an amazing job of keeping his predecessor’s policies in place–whether it’s the war in Afghanistan, imprisoning people in Guantanamo Bay or bailing out big banks and the financial industry.
But the president’s recent decision to sign into law the National Defense Authorization Act is the most troubling act performed by a chief executive whose decisions in supporting Israel, war in Libya and saber-rattling against Iran are already worrisome.
Among other things, the new law allows the president to authorize a “sweeping worldwide indefinite detention provision” as the American Civil Liberties Union notes. That means any American citizen anywhere in the world can be declared a terrorist or terrorist threat and detained without right to a lawyer and held so long as the government believes the detainee is a problem.
If this were a bad movie, we could say we’ve already seen Part 1 in Guantanamo Bay, where it’s been proven that the vast majority of people held in cages for years weren’t threats at all. Reports from Wikileaks documents revealed last April showed that most of the detainees held in the Cuban prison were not threats at all–and most of the accusations and tales of those with terror ties came from frightened men in cages who informed on fellow inmates in what should have been seen as obvious attempts to curry favor or get released. Somehow these obvious motivations weren’t enough for a change in policy and the camp remains open in the name of national security.
While the president expressed “reluctance” in signing the law, he did sign the legislation into law. And despite presidential promises that he would not indefinitely detain American citizens, he won’t be president forever. He could just be a one-term commander-in-chief and out of office in a few months with no control over the mindset of his successor.
But with the U.S. assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed by a drone in Yemen, there is reason for concern, not withstanding the presidential promise. Mr. Al-Awlaki, an opponent of U.S. foreign policy and alleged Al-Qaeda leader, was an American citizen when he was killed. He didn’t get a trial and neither did his teenage son who was killed by a second drone attack shortly after the death of his father. If the Obama administration can sanction the killing of a man deemed a terrorist threat, is it a stretch to believe the same administration would jail someone who is called a terrorist?
Another reality is presidents are only as good as the intelligence that they receive, so the president’s personal motives aren’t the only factors in this equation. How will the intelligence community see this law and how will it feel it should be deployed and who should it target?
Muslims have already seen themselves targeted and described as the enemy simply because of their religion and the Republican presidential hopefuls have done nothing to engender any hope of fair treatment. In the immediate aftermath of the 9-11 attacks, many Muslims simply disappeared off the streets as law enforcement–without the current legislation–simply locked them up and ignored their rights to due process. If due process–the right to a lawyer and other basic guarantees–are ignored in a crisis, how can anything but abuses be expected when government has the legal right to put you away without question or the ability to question?
Historically Black leaders and organizations have been especially vulnerable to law enforcement abuses for challenging the evils in society, and the Nation of Islam in particular has been targeted. Muslims from the East Coast to the West Coast have already complained of FBI infiltration and terror suspects in major cases have charged government informants with providing everything needed for such plots and entrapping others to face charges.
With that history, how likely are abuses to occur?
“It’s the militarization of America. It’s the demise of civilian politics. Civilian politics prevails but essentially it is dominated by procedures which are unconstitutional … It’s very much related to the social crises in America. It is intended to curb the protest movement. It states that so-called suspected terrorists can be arrested indefinitely without trial,” Michel Chossudovsky, director of the Center for Research on Globalization, told Press TV’s U.S. Desk in a Jan. 2 interview.
“President Obama’s action today is a blight on his legacy because he will forever be known as the president who signed indefinite detention without charge or trial into law,” said Anthony D. Romero, ACLU executive director. “The statute is particularly dangerous because it has no temporal or geographic limitations, and can be used by this and future presidents to militarily detain people captured far from any battlefield. The ACLU will fight worldwide detention authority wherever we can, be it in court, in Congress, or internationally.”
“Under the Bush administration, similar claims of worldwide detention authority were used to hold even a U.S. citizen detained on U.S. soil in military custody, and many in Congress now assert that the NDAA should be used in the same way again. The ACLU believes that any military detention of American citizens or others within the United States is unconstitutional and illegal, including under the NDAA. In addition, the breadth of the NDAA’s detention authority violates international law because it is not limited to people captured in the context of an actual armed conflict as required by the laws of war,” the ACLU added.
Another troubling aspect of the bill is that the label terrorist is easily bandied about: The mayor of Los Angeles called a string of major arson fires the work of a new terrorist and some have branded gang members “urban terrorists.” Who will decide what fits the definition of terrorist or material support for terrorists? Is it speaking out against U.S. policy, is it visiting a forbidden website, is it reading a Twitter account? Is it making a speech, publishing a newspaper or blogging that challenges the prevailing government view or challenges the truthfulness of government reports and activity? Who can be trusted to make such calls and deprive someone of their liberty based on mere “suspicion?”
The new law, which may be challenged in court at some point, is a travesty and another sign that while America claims to be a democracy, the Constitution has already been hacked to death and any bits left are being quickly shredded–everyone in America should be afraid.